Is The Drought Negatively Impacting Your Trees?

We all know trees need water, but do you know exactly what that tree does with the water? The tree sucks the water up like a bundle of straws then starts breaking the water down into hydrogen and oxygen. It then takes the hydrogen and forms glucose while releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere. The glucose is what fuels growth in the tree.

The effects of drought can be characterized as short term or long term. Short-term damage is caused by one dry spell includes leaf scorch and some loss of leaves. Long-term damage from drought happens over a period of years and includes stunted growth, branch die-back, and possible death of the plant.

Pest problems are another result of long-term drought, like wood borers cannot survive in a healthy tree. Aphids can also be more detrimental to their hosts during hot and dry periods. Many favorable insects like predatory mites, slow or cease foraging activity under these conditions. Drought-stressed trees also exhibit a reduced ability to  isolate small wounds, which allows pathogens to invade and colonize more easily.

Droughts affect trees directly by slowing growth and causing injury and death. It also indirectly affects them by providing a perfect home for insects and disease. If the tree does not have any water to convert to glucose, the tree will be heavily stressed causing them to enter the winter dormancy process.

What to look for:

  • Shriveled foliage
  • leaf scorch
  • leaf drop
  • Early color change

Make sure to Water Appropriately!

Here at Gilby’s we use the Reotemp Moisture meter to make sure all our trees are getting the correct amount of water. The Reotemp is a probe that goes up to 15” in the ground and gives you a moisture reading on a scale of 1-10. If the moisture meter is reading a 1-2 all the way down to 15” that tree needs watering immediately. If it is up at 8-10 then that tree can stop being watered till it gets back down around a 2 or 3. This is much easier than having to dig a 15” hole next to the tree to see if the water is getting down to all the roots. If you would like to buy a Reotemp Moisture Meter head on over to our store!

Remember that soil type can range, and the method of water delivery varies depending on your soil type.

  • Trees on a slope will need slow watering because a majority of water will run.
  • Sandy soils need shorter watering intervals, Clay needs longer.
  • Puddling of water may make one think sufficient water has been applied but it is essential that you monitor how deep the water is going into the soil. 12” is ideal.
  • Mulch can be used around the tree to a depth of 2” to help retain moisture.
  • Pruning is not recommended during a drought as it will cause more stress.
  • More people kill their trees from overwatering then underwatering, you need at least 25% oxygen in your soil. This is why we recommend buying a moisture meter.